By Benjamin Wright | The Playlist June 13, 2012 at 12:02PM
While many of us are currently caught up in the excess of the summer blockbuster movie season, several smaller documentaries are quietly making their way to cinemas as well. A few trailers for these films are hitting the web this week for those looking to toss out the stale popcorn entertainment for something a little more nuanced.
For the large section of “Desperate Housewives of (Insert City)” fans out there, perhaps it’s time to take a look at the other side of the coin with “The Queen of Versailles.” Following billionaire timeshare mogul David Siegel and his idealistic housewife Jackie Siegel – who are looking to build a 90,000-square-foot mansion inspired by Versailles – the film chronicles the financial woes of the couple and their large family as America begins to experience its current financial collapse. The tale looks to be oddly compelling in that Jackie is very upfront and proud of her spending ways, while the much older David must come to terms with his plummeting fortune and ludicrous wife. The doc was a Sundance hit, garnering a U.S. Directing Award for filmmaker and photographer Lauren Greenfield at the festival, and should be worth a look when it hits theaters on July 20th.
The trailer for “Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry” starts cryptically enough with a man discussing a cat who can open doors – until it turns out that man is an artist that some call “Beijing’s Andy Warhol” and has been deemed a threat to the Chinese government. A confrontational but thoughtful individual, 'Never Sorry' looks to capture the work and everyday life of Ai Weiwei in this Sundance Jury Prize-winning documentary from filmmaker Alison Klayman. Ai is hellbent on improving the conditions of human rights and freedom of expression within his homeland – which involves everything from staging elaborate living art installations to assaulting off duty Chinese authorities – all while constantly being refused permission to travel and being kept under constant video surveillance and house arrest. Looks as if the stakes are pretty high in this documentary, and it certainly has our interest. The film hits select theaters on July 27th.
Finally, what do you get when you put folk-tinged rock acts Mumford & Sons, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes and Old Crow Medicine Show aboard a beautiful-looking train and send them on the scenic route from San Francisco, California to New Orleans, Louisiana, on a sold-out six-stop tour? The answer is a lot of screaming fans, loud music, and the sort of pseudo-intellectual conversations about life on the road that only a rock star could give. Cameron Crowe would be proud. Still, documentary “Big Easy Express” looks to be a treat for fans of these artists and anyone looking to celebrate music in general. Our review called it “a rambling, affectionate tour documentary that should make fans happy,” and as we said, that looks about right. It also looks to be a showcase for some beautiful landscapes as the motley crew of musicians makes their way down the West Coast, so we’ll have to see for ourselves. when the film hits theaters later this year.